Good news for refugees

2019-10-30 06:01

Refugees and asylum seekers could soon be entitled to claim benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

This follows the Department of Labour issuing draft regulations that will eventually open the door for refugees and asylum seekers.

Jethro Malapane, executive committee member of the South African Payroll Association, said in 2009 the regulations that govern the UIF were updated to include “non-RSA” identity documents and “valid foreign identity documents and passports”.

“Yet it continued seeing the asylum seekers still barred from pay-outs they were eligible for,” said Malapane.

He said the draft regulations have been released for stakeholder input, and once the comments have been considered the final regulations will be published.

“It is possible that the final regulations will be published this year, but there may be a delay with the updating of the systems at the Department of Labour and the UIF.”

Malapane explained that the draft regulations were the result of successful litigation by Werksmans Attorneys’ pro bono team.

“The current policy was declared unconstitutional in February this year. The draft regulations for consideration have now been published.

“If someone has fled their country and fear prosecution because of race, religion, politics or being a member of a specific social group, they are considered to be an asylum seeker and once they have been granted asylum, they are considered to be a refugee in South Africa.

“Once they receive an asylum seeker’s permit (a section 22 permit), which is valid for six months, they have the right to work and study in South Africa and are protected against deportation to their country of origin, the Department of Home Affairs explains on their website.”

Malapane said in order to obtain a South African identity, refugees and asylum seekers first had to be granted asylum.

“This process should not take longer than 180 days, but in reality this often takes several years. An asylum seeker has to undergo a second round of interviews in order to obtain written recognition of refugee status (a section 24 permit), which is valid for two years and is renewable.”

Malapane emphasised that people who do not have a valid work permit, or who has entered the country illegally, would not be entitled to work in South Africa.

“Therefore, they will not be eligible to contribute to or benefit from the UIF.

“It is my understanding that those who were not able to claim in the past because of the current regulations, may be in a position to backdate their claims.”

Malapane said the UIF would have to increase its capacity to deal with the registrations and potential increase in the number of claims going forward. He said refugees and asylum seekers who qualify may be given a window in which to resubmit claims that have been rejected.

“However, there is no indication how long it will be backdated in order to assist people who lost their jobs and were not entitled to their contributions to the fund.”

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